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What Are the Signs I’m Eating the Wrong Diet for my Body?

April 11, 2014

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Hi, I’m Maria Marlowe, a Certified Health Coach and author of Detox without the Deprivation. This is my weekly “Ask Health Coach Maria” series, in which I answer frequently asked questions that relate to health and wellness. Have a question? Ask me here

Hi Maria,

I switched to a raw vegan diet about two years ago, and at first I lost a ton of weight and felt great. Now, though, I feel like I am starting to look older than I am, and while I’m thin, I don’t feel like I look “healthy.” Lately I’ve noticed that I have phlegm in my throat in the morning, which I used to get from drinking dairy, but now since I don’t drink dairy, I don’t understand why I’m getting it. What’s going on?! 

-Linda, New Jersey

Dear Linda,

We may have put men on the moon, but we still can’t seem to agree on what humans should eat. With over 100 different dietary theories currently circulating, many with very vocal supporters, it’s easy to get swept up and become militant about the concept or theory behind the diet, with total disregard for how it’s actually affecting your body.

The raw food diet is based on the principle that important enzymes in food are destroyed by heat in cooking, so it’s best to eat food raw, or cooked at no higher than 118°F, the temperature above which the enzymes are killed and nutrients are lost. The thought process is that we are living beings and we should eat living foods.

While it may be true that some enzymes and nutrients are destroyed or reduced during cooking, this doesn’t mean that every person should be eating all raw food all the time.  

First off, certain foods need to be cooked before we eat them, in order to remove the anti-nutrients they naturally contain. Mushrooms are a great example of this. Other foods, like tomatoes, actually become more nutrient dense when they are cooked, so by eating them solely raw, we are missing out on much of their cancer-fighting and powerful antioxidant capabilities.  

While raw food-ists—who eat mainly fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds—are probably healthier than the average American eating junk food, that doesn’t mean this diet is necessarily the healthiest one for any and every one. 

You see, every person’s body and biochemistry is unique, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. It’s even unlikely that there is one specific diet for you over the entire course of your life. Your 70-year old self will have different dietary needs than your 20-year old self.  This concept, known as bio individuality, can revolutionize the way you view your body and your diet.

A raw food diet in particular  is much better tolerated in a tropical or very warm climate, since it has a cooling affect on the body. 

This is likely the reason for your morning pghlem. In Chinese medicine, this is related to “dampness” in the body, which is caused by cold, raw foods, which are too cooling, especially on a chilly winter day.

A strictly raw food diet may be excellent for short term cleansing, detoxing, or reversing certain health problems, but long term, it can start to have unpleasant affects on your health. 

Now, I used raw food-ism as an example because of your specific question, but you can play devil’s advocate with really any dietary theory. Remember, most diets do work to some extent, but not necessarily indefinitely or in every scenario.

When it comes to eating, it’s important not to get swept up in the latest trend, but rather to listen to your body to determine if that particular diet is helping or hurting you. Here are 5 signs to look out for that could indicate you’re eating the wrong diet for your body:

  1. Your energy is low. It’s amazing taking the train at rush hour in Manhattan. Everyone is sleeping on their way to and from work! Or, just try getting into a Starbucks at 3 pm…the line is out the door. If you need naptime or a caffeine jolt to get you through the day, you’re likely eating something that is zapping your energy. Doing an elimination diet is key to figuring out what it is, so you can remove it.
  2. Your skin is breaking out. Adult acne and breakouts are more and more common in my practice. The most common culprit? Diet. If you’re allergic or sensitive to a food you’re eating, that could be causing your breakouts. While there are foods you can add into your diet to help reverse inflammation, redness, and breakouts, if something you’re eating is indeed causing the problem, you will need to eliminate it completely for complete relief. What’s more, even if you’re not breaking out, lackluster skin and even prematurely aging skin can all be a sign that your diet (and lifestyle) are taking a toll. Most people forget that skin is an organ, and as such it needs specific nutrients in order to look and function its best. Plus,  since our skin is the last place that nutrients go, it is one of the first places to show a deficiency. With any skin issues, an elimination diet is in order.
  3. You get sick often. Our diet plays a large role in how well our immune system functions, and can even affect our risk of certain diseases and cancers. If you feel like you get a cold or flu often, you may want to look at your diet. Are you eating something that is compromising your immune system? Are you eating enough foods that support the immune system? Remember that in some cases, one person’s food is another person’s poison. So don’t think just because a food is common or popular that it can’t possibly harm you. If you are allergic or sensitive to it, it very well can!
  4. Your digestive system is off. It’s interesting. Many of my clients come to me to lose weight, and after a comprehensive questionnaire, I find that they are consistently battling either gas or constipation or diarrhea, or even all three! I ask them why the digestive issues weren’t their initial concern, and they usually answer with something along the lines of, “Well, I just thought those things were normal.” Just because something happens every day, does not mean it’s normal! There is definitely an underlying diet-related cause here, so if you’re experiencing digestive issues, your best bet is to work with a Health Coach, doctor, or other practitioner who can help you discover the underlying cause and correct it through dietary changes, and possibly supplementation if needed.
  5. You feel “blah.” Food is our fuel! It’s what makes our bodies go. If you bought a fancy new sports car, you’re not going to fill it with cheap fuel, you’re going to give it the best stuff available, because you know it will run better and more efficiently. Well, the same goes with our diet. If you’re feeling like your performing at a “subpar” level, with brain fog, low energy, heaviness, and just plain old feelings of blah, your diet likely has a lot to do with it. Again, in this case, it is best to work with a Health Coach or other practitioner who can help discover the root causes of what you’re feeling, and reverse it through proper diet. 

Bottom line: Always listen to your body, and if it’s showing you physical symptoms that something is off balance, seek professional guidance to get to the bottom of it! 

Have you found relief for one of these symptoms by changing your diet? If so, what happened? Share your experience in the comments below. 

Maria Marlowe is a Certified Health Coach and regular Wellness Today Contributor. Get your health question answered in her next column by sending her an email at healthcoachmaria@wellnesstoday.com.